Behind the Scenes of the National Court Reporting Association Convention—Encouraging Court Reporters to Evolve With the Times

Many people are required to be present throughout any courtroom procedure, whether it is a preliminary hearing, deposition, or trial. In some cases, a courtroom may be filled to capacity with judges, jurors, bailiffs, witnesses, and other functionaries. However, the one person who is required to listen to your every word may be the last person you notice…the court reporter.

Although court reporters tend to get little attention and even less appreciation, they are among the hardest working officials in the justice system. They’re responsible for accurately noting every statement and tiny detail that occurs from deposition to sentencing. Their ability to transcribe accurately is what gives you a clear and precise record to fall back on. If that record is incomprehensible or incorrect in any way, your case could wind up suffering.

Nevertheless, for all reporters do, they get very little in return besides the constant pressure to work faster and evolve with technological advances.

As a result of under-appreciation and voluntary retirement, the number of court reporters has drastically decreased over the past few years and is expected to continue falling. However, in order to slow this downfall, the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) holds an annual convention to support all U.S. stenographers, court reporters, and transcriptionists.

NCRA Convention and Expo

Although every convention is intended to provide vocational, as well as emotional, support, acceptance, and advice, this year’s expo (held in July 2015 at the New York Hilton) was an unusually crucial event for the NCRA. This expo was the first to follow a recent independent study showcasing the steady decline of experienced court reporters throughout the United States. The study projects that by 2018 there will be a surplus of over 5,500 court reporting jobs with no one skilled enough to fill them. As a result of this alarming prediction, the NCRA decided to up their game with a few wild cards.

In order to inspire newcomers to pursue these underestimated careers, the NCRA persuaded some their more famous members to speak at the convention and attempt to stir up excitement and enthusiasm for court reporting. These NCRA celebrities included acclaimed transcriptionists Ed Varallo; Tammy Frazier and sons Chase and Clay; international freelance court reporter Lisa Knight; and master transcriptionist Mirabai Knight.

Mirabai Knight, co-founder of the Open Steno Project—an organization that’s trying to attract a wider base of stenographers to the profession through free software and cheaper equipment, was definitely the star of the expo. Although only age 34, her transcription skills earn her roughly $100,000 a year and provide her the chance to help others with their careers. She spent the entire four days of the convention talking to people about ways to improve accuracy and the best software to use for their transcribing needs.

All in all, the convention was perceived as a success, with the hope that the advice and inspiration given by the speakers will mean next year’s convention (August 4–7, 2016 at the Chicago Hilton, Chicago, Illinois) will have an even better turnout and see an increase of skilled and working court reporters and transcriptionists.

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